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In World War II, French West Africa (Afrique occidentale française, AOF) was not a major scene of major fighting. Only one large-scale action took place there: the Battle of Dakar (23–25 September 1940). The region remained under the control of Vichy France after the fall of France (25 June 1940) and until the Allied invasion of North Africa (8–16 November 1942). French Gabon, the only colony of French Equatorial Africa not to join Free France after the armistice, fell to invading Free French Forces from the neighbouring colonies after the Battle of Gabon (8–12 November 1940), further isolating West Africa.
Unlike in metropolitan France, the French Colonial Troops in West Africa were not reduced after the 1940 armistice and the region was little interfered with by the Axis powers, providing a valuable addition to the forces of Free France after it had been liberated. Before this happened, there was some tension between the French and the neighbouring British colonies, particularly Sierra Leone, leading to the formation of the Freetown Defence Flight in June 1941, but no military incidents took place.
Anti-British sentiment in Africa had run high after the French battleship Richelieu had been hit in the port of Dakar, Senegal, in French West Africa on July 10, 1940.In August, Free French General Charles de Gaulle suggested an overland campaign, landing at Conakry, French Guinea. He anticipated that popular support for the Free French movement would be built in a drive on Dakar. But de Gaulle's suggestion was overruled by British desires to move swiftly.
On 18 September, three French light cruisers, the Georges Leygues, the Gloire, and the Montcalm were intercepted by Allied ships en route to Libreville. The intercepting Allied ships included the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. The three French light cruisers were forced to retreat.
Vichy resistance stiffened as a result of the attacks on the French ships. The Battle of Dakar (23 September to 25 September 1940) took place after Allied forces failed to persuade the Vichy French defenders of Dakar to allow them to peacefully enter the city. The Allied forces first tried to persuade the Vichy forces by means of propaganda. They then attempted to take Dakar by force of arms. Both attempts ended in defeat. Allied hopes of taking over French West Africa were dashed for the time being, leading to the less developed and economically important French Equatorial Africa to be the main Free French territory in the immediate aftermath of the Armistice.
French Equatorial Africa, or the AEF, was the federation of French colonial possessions in Equatorial Africa, extending northwards from the Congo River into the Sahel, and comprising what are today the countries of Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon.
Free France and its Free French Forces were the government-in-exile led by Charles de Gaulle during the Second World War and its military forces, that continued to fight against the Axis powers as one of the Allies after the fall of France. Set up in London in June 1940, it organised and supported the Resistance in occupied France.
Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan was a French admiral and political figure. He was admiral of the fleet and Chief of Staff of the French Navy in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. After France signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in 1940, Darlan served in the pro-German Vichy regime, becoming its deputy leader for a time. When the Allies invaded French North Africa in 1942, Darlan was the highest-ranking officer there, and a deal was made, giving him control of North African French forces in exchange for joining their side. Less than two months later he was assassinated.
French West Africa was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan, French Guinea, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, Dahomey and Niger. The federation existed from 1895 until 1958. Its capital was Saint-Louis, Senegal until 1902, and then Dakar until the federation's collapse.
From 1939 until 1940, which witnessed a war against Germany by the French Third Republic. The period from 1940 until 1945, which saw competition between Vichy France and the Free French Forces under General Charles de Gaulle for control of the overseas empire. And 1944, witnessing the landings of the Allies in France, expelling the German Army and putting an end to the Vichy Regime.
The Attack on Mers-el-Kébir also known as the Battle of Mers-el-Kébir, was part of Operation Catapult, a British naval attack on French Navy ships at the naval base at Mers El Kébir on the coast of French Algeria. The bombardment killed 1,297 French servicemen, sank a battleship and damaged five other ships for a British loss of five aircraft shot down and two crewmen killed.
Case Anton was the military occupation of Vichy France carried out by Germany and Italy in November 1942. It marked the end of the Vichy regime as a nominally-independent state and the disbanding of its army, but it continued its existence as a puppet government in Occupied France. One of the last actions of its armed forces before their dissolution was the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon to prevent it from falling into Axis hands.
The Battle of Madagascar was the British campaign to capture the Vichy French-controlled island Madagascar during World War II. The seizure of the island by the British was to deny Madagascar's ports to the Imperial Japanese Navy and to prevent the loss or impairment of the Allied shipping routes to India, Australia and Southeast Asia. It began with Operation Ironclad, the seizure of the port of Diego-Suarez near the northern tip of the island, on 5 May 1942.
Primauguet was a French Duguay-Trouin-class light cruiser built after World War I. During the Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa in 1942, she was burnt out and abandoned, having been subject to gunfire from a fleet led by the battleship Massachusetts, and repeated aerial attacks by SBD Dauntless dive bombers. She was named after the 15th century Breton captain Hervé de Portzmoguer, nicknamed "Primauguet".
The Battle of Dakar, also known as Operation Menace, was an unsuccessful attempt in September 1940 by the Allies to capture the strategic port of Dakar in French West Africa. It was hoped that the success of the operation could overthrow the pro-German Vichy French administration in the colony, and be replaced by a pro-British Free French one under General Charles de Gaulle.
Georges Leygues was a French light cruiser of the La Galissonnière class. During World War II, she served with both Vichy France and Allies. She was named for the prominent 19th and 20th-century French politician Georges Leygues.
Gloire was a French light cruiser of the La Galissonnière class.
Le Fantasque was the lead ship of her class of six large destroyers built for the Marine Nationale during the 1930s. The ship entered service in 1935 and participated in the Second World War. When war was declared in September 1939, all of the Le Fantasques were assigned to the Force de Raid which was tasked to hunt down German commerce raiders and blockade runners. Le Fantasque and two of her sister ships were based in Dakar, French West Africa, to patrol the Central Atlantic for several months in late 1939. They returned to Metropolitan France before the end of the year and were transferred to French Algeria in late April 1940 in case Italy decided to enter the war. She screened French cruisers several times as they unsuccessfully hunted for Italian ships after Italy declared war in June.
The scuttling of the French fleet at Toulon was orchestrated by Vichy France on 27 November 1942 to prevent Nazi German forces from taking it over. The Allied invasion of North Africa had provoked the Germans into invading the zone libre, neutral according to the Armistice of 22 June 1940. The Vichy Secretary of the Navy, Admiral François Darlan, defected to the Allies, who were gaining increasing support from servicemen and civilians. His replacement, Admiral Gabriel Auphan, guessed correctly that the Germans were aiming to seize the large fleet at Toulon, and ordered them to be scuttled.
Louis Alexis Étienne Bonvin was a French diplomat and colonial official of the French Third Republic, who served as governor of French India between 1938 and 1946.
The Battle of Gabon, also called the Gabon Campaign, occurred in November 1940 during World War II. The battle resulted in the Free French Forces taking the colony of Gabon and its capital, Libreville, from Vichy French forces. It was the only significant engagement in Central Africa during the war.
The Free French Naval Forces were the naval arm of the Free French Forces during the Second World War. They were commanded by Admiral Émile Muselier.
The French State, popularly known as Vichy France, as led by Marshal Philippe Pétain after the Fall of France in 1940 before Nazi Germany, was quickly recognized by the Allies, as well as by the Soviet Union, until 30 June 1941 and Operation Barbarossa. However France broke with the United Kingdom after the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. Canada maintained diplomatic relations until the occupation of Southern France by Germany and Italy in November 1942.
Vichy France is the common name of the French State headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during World War II. Evacuated from Paris to Vichy in the unoccupied "Free Zone" in the southern part of metropolitan France which included French Algeria, it remained responsible for the civil administration of France as well as the French colonial empire.
L'Audacieux was one of six Le Fantasque-class large destroyers built for the Marine Nationale during the 1930s. The ship entered service in 1935 and participated in the Second World War. When war was declared in September 1939, all of the Le Fantasques were assigned to the Force de Raid, tasked to hunt down German commerce raiders and blockade runners. L'Audacieux and two of her sister ships were based in Dakar, French West Africa, to patrol the Central Atlantic for several months in late 1939. They returned to Metropolitan France before the end of the year and were transferred to French Algeria in late April 1940 in case Italy decided to enter the war. She screened French cruisers several times as they unsuccessfully hunted for Italian ships after Italy declared war in June.
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